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Texas Sportsman
Care & Feeding Of Panfish
Here's the scoop on the baits and lures that can have you catching Southern panfish on nearly every cast!

Panfish come into their own all across the South this month, and there are lots of ways to catch them early and often on every outing. That's what this story is all about.

For the purposes of this piece we're going to limit our discussion to three kinds of panfish: small catfish, crappie and sunfish. All are fun to catch; all are active in May; all are found virtually anywhere that you'd care to fish for them.

Together, these panfish give you more angling options than just about any combination you might think of. If you decide to make a trip solely in search of panfish, you're going to open up a world of options.


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You'll find lots of areas to fish, lots of ways to fish, lots of tackle to choose from and just as many baits to consider. For those who enjoy a challenge, a panfish outing presents one: the concept of picking just the right stuff for success that day.

The good news is that it's difficult to make a bad decision when it comes to panfish this month. Cats, crappie and sunfish all will respond well to a variety of baits and fishing methods. You just have to decide which you'll want to try next.

TACKLE
It's hard to go wrong with a fairly long rod -- say, at least 6 feet -- with a light action. Personal preference is for a rod with a really fast action; that is, with most of the flex within the first quarter to third of the rod.

Such rods tend to be extremely sensitive, and they offer power (even in light-action models) that can come in handy, because the places you'll be fishing and the baits you'll be using there also can attract other species of fish like bass -- and very large catfish (those weighing 10 pounds or more).

If you were to ask 100 anglers to describe their favorite panfish reel, the answer most likely would be an open-faced spinning model that will accommodate light line -- say, 4- or 6-pound test. There's no question that this is a decent choice, but it's probably not the best, as anglers out after panfish always have a chance of catching something really large and/or heavy. It's happened to me, as I'm sure it has to you.

Once, when fly-fishing for panfish, I had a flathead catfish in the 20-pound range come up and make three swipes at my lure. Fortunately for me, he missed. I don't know what I would have done if a fish of that size had managed to actually get hooked. I was using a 4-pound tippet, and the rod was only a 5-weight, which some would consider light.

The point is that just because you're after panfish, you should never rule out the possibility of an encounter with a real trophy of some other fish. For that reason, the choice in a reel is either an open-faced spinning reel or a spin-cast (closed-face) reel that will accommodate 8- or 10-pound line.


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